Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on April 3, 2020, to announce that The Nippon Foundation will ready 10,000 beds for coronavirus patients with mild or no symptoms.
Responding to the coronavirus pandemic, The Nippon Foundation has announced that it will build two makeshift facilities in and near Tokyo with a total of over 10,000 beds for COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms.
I made the announcement at a press conference held in Tokyo on April 3 as Japan’s capital and other major population centers reported fast rises in the number of coronavirus cases, putting a growing strain on the nation’s healthcare system.
I believe that if we are to avoid a breakdown in the country’s medical system, we urgently need to free up hospital beds for severely ill and high-risk patients by providing more facilities for patients who are asymptomatic or display only mild symptoms.
In Tokyo, the metropolitan government aims at securing 4,000 hospital beds for patients with medium to severe symptoms, but as of early April had only secured 500.
The Nippon Foundation will set up nine large air-conditioned tents in a parking lot of the Museum of Maritime Science, operated by our partner organization, in Odaida on Tokyo Bay. We will also use The Nippon Foundation Para Arena, a dedicated para sports gymnasium located in the grounds of the museum. In these facilities, we plan to make 1,200 beds available for patients demonstrating mild or no symptoms by the end of April.
We will also ready 9,000 beds at a facility to be completed by the end of July in a compound of a now-defunct research institute in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo.
Operational details will be worked out by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Japan Medical Association. Costs of setting up and running the facilities, recruiting doctors, nurses and medical staff, paying their salaries and covering their meals and other expenses, will all be taken care of by the foundation.
I told the press conference that the coronavirus outbreak is the biggest national crisis in the 75 years since the end of World War II, affecting every aspect of people’s lives across the country. It is crucially important that we all unite to confront the disease.
Before the press conference I met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and afterward with Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, to discuss how best we can cooperate in battling the pandemic.
On April 7, Prime Minister Abe declared a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures to curb the coronavirus pandemic. At his press conference, he referred to The Nippon Foundation’s project to provide 10,000 beds for COVID-19 patients. While we were greatly honored and encouraged by this, we feel a strong sense of responsibility to fight this virus in the front lines.
The Nippon Foundation has been involved in disaster response and recovery operations more than 60 times, including the major earthquakes that devastated Kobe in 1995, Tohoku (northeast Japan) in 2011 and Kumamoto Prefecture in 2016. In dealing with disasters, it is crucial to move swiftly. Considering the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took only two and a half days for The Nippon Foundation to decide to launch the emergency project in consultation with medical and other experts.
Concerning the requisition of the Para Arena for this purpose in the wake of the postponement of Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, I sincerely appreciate the support of Mr. Yasushi Yamawaki, president of the Japanese Paralympic Committee, who said that we should do everything possible to save lives in the battle against COVID-19, which goes beyond comparison with sports.
As I said at the April 3 news conference, it would be best if we did not have to use these facilities. But we need to be prepared for every eventuality.
Media covering the press conference were mostly TV reporters and camera crews. Other journalists covered it online due to the coronavirus restrictions.